What Are the Treatments for Chickenpox on the Scalp?

young woman washing hair in bathtub
A woman washes her hair in the tub. (Image: Alliance/iStock/Getty Images)

Since the introduction of an effective vaccine in 1995, chickenpox has become increasingly uncommon in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. In most cases, the disease first strikes the trunk or face and then moves outward, affecting the scalp and extremities. Treatment for chickenpox of the scalp focuses on symptomatic relief and skin hygiene to reduce the risk of secondary bacterial infections. Some patients also require antiviral drugs.

Antiviral Drugs

According to University of Alabama Medical School Professor Richard J. Whitely in the 2008 edition of “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine,” some individuals with chickenpox develop as many as 2,000 blisters while others—especially young children—may have fewer than 50. People with extensive disease and those categorized by the CDC as “high risk” for complications of chickenpox benefit from prescription antiviral drugs that reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Common choices, says the Mayo Clinic website, include acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir.

Topical Astringents

In the 2008 edition of “Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine,” University of North Carolina dermatologist Craig N. Burkart explains that topical astringents reduce swelling, stop secretions and inhibit bleeding in people with chickenpox and other inflammatory skin conditions. Astringents used to treat acne are too harsh for chickenpox of the scalp. Whitely recommends over-the-counter aluminum acetate. The American Medical Association recommends a mixture of oatmeal and water. Applying a topical astringent one to three times per day during the early phase of the disease may help control irritation and accelerate healing.

Good Hygiene

According to Whitely, good hygiene helps prevent secondary bacterial infections of chickenpox lesions, especially on the scalp where hair oils trap dirt and bacteria. Patients should wash their hair daily with mild shampoo, applying conditioner to the ends of hair only. People who normally use other hair products such as gels and sprays should refrain from doing so until chickenpox lesions are completely healed. Brushes and combs should be directed away from the scalp. Baths may be superior to showers. Soaking your scalp in tepid water during a bath, says Whitely, often provides relief from itching, superior even to medicated anti-itch lotions.

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